12th Annual Triumph for Teens Gala: Sold-Out Success

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Actor and humanitarian Matthew Perry received the “2015 Phoenix Rising Award” and former Los Angeles Mayor and civic leader the Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa, the “2015 Public Service Award” at the 12th Annual Triumph for Teens Awards Gala, Monday, June 15th, 2015 at the Montage Beverly Hills. The sold out event celebrated the victories of young people in overcoming their addiction and related ailments and recognized the contributions and accomplishments which have positively influenced the health and welfare of our communities, especially our at–risk youth.

KCBS/KCAL weather anchor/reporter Kaj Goldberg hosted the dinner and award ceremony with Don Felder, former lead guitarist for The Eagles, performing. Phoenix Houses of California Board members, Michael Dwyer, DeeDee Gordon and Michael Kraus Co-Chaired the event.

The evening opened with phenom violin prodigy Lee England, Jr. performing his rendition of David Bowie’s “Hero.” England (right) has been cheered internationally and is the first non-athlete signed by Michael Jordan’s management company.

Host Kaj Goldberg welcomed the more than 250 guests noting that “in classic mythology, the Phoenix was a rare and mysterious bird who, even after facing death, had the strength and conviction to rise from the ashes, renewed with a youthful vigor that allowed him to live again, better and stronger.”

Tim Noonan, President of the Board of Directors for Phoenix House, California was joined on stage by fellow Board member Brad De Koning who paid tribute to the late Scott Dunham, Board member and integral member of the Phoenix House family whose contributions to the organization over the years were immeasurable. In recognition, the Scott Dunham Memorial Garden will be dedicated at the Phoenix House Lakeview Terrace facility. Dunham’s widow Barbara was on hand to accept a commemorative plaque on behalf of the family.

Pouria Abbassi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Phoenix Houses of California, enumerated the stellar success rate of Phoenix House in reintegrating teens, many of whom come from the juvenile justice system and foster homes back into the community in a way that improves both their prospects for success and society at large. He then introduced teens “Edgar” and “Jasmine” who spoke movingly of how their experiences at Phoenix House had changed their lives and set them each on a course for a bright future.

Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa with Marc Nathanson

Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa with Marc Nathanson

Internationally recognized businessman, philanthropist and former Phoenix House board member Marc Nathanson presented the 2015 Public Service Award to former Los Angeles Mayor and civic leader Antonio Villaraigosa (pictured right). Describing his good friend as “all about new beginnings and overcoming great obstacles to rise to the top of the leadership of our city, our state and our nation,” Nathanson described Villaraigosa’s hard fought early years and his eventual determination to turn his life around. “He’s a fighter who never has forgotten his roots,” he continued, “and has always been a good friend to our youth in his policies, his actions and his heart. Antonio has risen like a Phoenix to become one of the most respected leaders in our state and, in my opinion, he will make an outstanding governor.”

The Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa has been a respected voice in American politics, a prominent policymaker and savvy strategist for more than 20 years. As two-term Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, he is credited with making major strides in transportation, crime reduction, infrastructure, energy and resource sustainability, right-sizing government, business development and education reform. Prior to his election as Mayor, Villaraigosa served as a member of the Los Angeles City Council for two years. As a member of the California State Assembly from 1994 through 2000, he served as Democratic Whip, Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly, overseeing landmark state issues including an historic $9 billion school rebuilding bond, the toughest assault weapons ban in the country, the largest urban neighborhood parks initiative in U.S. history and creation of the “Healthy Families” program that provided healthcare for more than three quarters of a million children.

Actors Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow

Actors Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow

Emmy-winning actress, writer and producer Lisa Kudrow presented the 2015 Phoenix Rising Award to her former Friends cast mate, Matthew Perry (pictured left). Lauding the actor for his “quick wit…sizzling instinct and intellect…creativity and humor,” she noted that working with Perry “was like shooting hoops with Shaq. It raises your game.” She then described his personal and often public battle with addiction and sobriety, “facing the reality of his situation with characteristic resilience, stamina and grace.”  She continued, “Not only did he handle it all, he showed outstanding generosity and compassion by turning his Malibu home into a post-treatment sober house for others in recovery.”

One of the entertainment industry’s most accomplished actors, Matthew Perry came to national prominence for his ten year run as Chandler Bing in the highly-rated and critically acclaimed NBC-TV series Friends. His diverse talents in a wide range of projects has continued to captivate audiences world-wide. Currently, Perry stars in and is co-executive producer of CBS-TV’s remake of Neil Simon’s classic sitcom, The Odd Couple. Off screen, Perry has made it his mission to help others with sobriety. An active advocate for the drug court system in conjunction with the National Association for Drug Court Professionals, he has been named an Ambassador to the Court. His efforts have helped raise more than $45 million for the courts. Perry has been honored by the Obama Administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy with its highest honor, the Champion of Recovery Award.

Don Felder, lead guitarist for The Eagles, offered a closing performance that added a truly magical touch. Everyone watched, captivated, as he wrapped the show with a double neck guitar performing, in a hotel in California, “Hotel California.”

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